A Dublin man has been given a six-year sentence after being convicted of damaging a Claude Monet painting estimated to be worth €10 million at the National Gallery of Ireland.
Andrew Shannon (49) of Willians Way, Ongar had pleaded not guilty to damaging the Claude Monet painting entitled Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sail Boat (1874) at the National Gallery of Ireland on Clare Street on June 29th, 2012.
A jury of seven women and five men returned a verdict of guilty on that charge following almost one and a half hours of deliberation on day eight of the trial.
The court heard Shannon has 48 previous convictions in this and other jurisdictions, some of which are for burglary and theft offences involving antiques. In November 2011 he was sentenced in Wicklow Circuit Court for handling stolen property involving maps dating from 1651 with a value of €6,000.
The Monet painting is now back on display in the National Gallery following a period of restoration.
Judge Martin Nolan imposed a sentence of six years and suspended the final 15 months on strict conditions including that Shannon not enter into a public painting gallery or any other institution or building where paintings are publicly displayed.
The maximum sentence for this offence is 10 years.
Judge Nolan had earlier directed the jury to find Shannon not guilty of damaging two paintings at the Shelbourne hotel on January 8th, 2014.
Garda Conor O’Braonain told Kerida Naidoo BL, prosecuting, that Shannon had entered the gallery just before 11am and had gone to where the painting was on display. He left and returned a short time later and appeared to fall forward, striking the painting.
The point of impact was above eye level and to the left hand side of the painting.
Shannon said he had been dizzy and had fallen forward. He had spoken to a number of people, including two tourists from New Zealand and security staff, at the scene telling them he had a heart condition.
He was treated by a paramedic who reported his vitals were normal and he was given GTN spray and aspirin.
During interview, he told gardaí he had a heart condition and that’s why he had fallen down.
Garda O’Braonain agreed with Mr Bowman that Shannon suffers from significant heart difficulties. He agreed the accused had qualified as a French polisher.
Mr Bowman said Shannon had been in custody since the date of offence, except for a six-week period, and suffers ongoing health difficulties which have not been eased by time in custody. He asked the court to give him credit for the time in custody.
He commented that the two-year period of restoration for the painting coincided with the amount of time Shannon had spent in custody.
Judge Nolan said he would not expect Shannon to know the value of the painting, but he must have known the painting was valuable and historic. He said it was a “peculiar crime” and it was “abnormal” to cause damage in the way he did.
He said he was taking into account Shannon’s age and medical condition in sentencing. He said all the time Shannon had spent in custody should be taken into account.
A previous jury in the case had been discharged last December after failing to reach a verdict.